Investment in Foreign Aerospace Vehicle Research and Technological Development Efforts

T-NSIAD-89-43: Published: Aug 2, 1989. Publicly Released: Aug 2, 1989.

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GAO discussed foreign countries' aerospace goals and objectives, current aerospace vehicle programs, technological challenges, testing, and prospects for international cooperation. GAO found that: (1) foreign countries developed technologies for various concepts of operational aerospace vehicles to secure independent access to space, reduce launching costs, and ensure a competitive role in future commercial transport markets; (2) no European or Japanese aerospace program was as technologically challenging as the U.S. National Aerospace Plane (NASP) Program in terms of launch capabilities and propulsion systems, but foreign countries were making progress in the development of advanced propulsion and materials; (3) European and Japanese government and industry investment levels in aerospace vehicle research were significantly less than U.S. government and industry levels; (4) test facilities in Europe and Japan were not adequate for large-scale testing or spaceplane development; (5) no European country or Japan appeared likely to develop and build a spaceplane because of the extensive technology and funding requirements, and any successful effort would most likely be coordinated under the European Space Agency; and (6) although foreign governments and industry representatives expressed interest in cooperating with the United States on the NASP Program, they also expressed reservations about cooperative ventures with the United States because of potential military applications to the program and strict U.S. export controls on technology transfer.

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